Berlin’s Turning 775 – and You’re Invited!

Posted in: Berlin Sightseeing


Cölln excavations at the Petriplatz. © Foto: Claudia Maria Melisch
Cölln excavations at the Petriplatz. © Foto: Claudia Maria Melisch

On October 28, 1237, Berlin’s historic center, then known as Cölln, received its first mention in recorded history, and from this birth certificate of specious origin, Berlin has adopted this date as its official birthday. The “poor but sexy” city therefore turns 775 this year, and has decided to make a show of it!

You can imagine that its last major birthday celebrations – 700 in 1937 and 750 in 1987 – were shadowed by the spectres of the Nazi regime and Cold War division, respectively, so maybe you’ll cut the city a little slack for choosing to throw a party 25 years too soon!

Here are some of the events, running now until the end of October:

Archeological sites

Historic Cölln – encompassing today’s Nikolaiviertel near Alexanderplatz – is on display, with open-air exhibitions of sites excavated in front of City Hall and in the building of the new U5 subway line. Look here for outdoor markers explaining the significance of the area as well as its historic layout, placing the monuments still standing today in their original context.

Giant maps

Berlin celebrates the city’s diversity at Schlossplatz, near the Berliner Dom, where a giant walkable city map is on display. The colorful exhibit invites you to learn more about the role immigration has played in the German capital and is eye-catching by day or night.


The night of October 28th is the culmination of all events. Cölln will be lit up with fire installations, designed by French fire “poets,” Carabosse. Nearby, street artists from the German group Titanick will perform – don’t be surprised if it gets a little wet!

About the author

Hilary Bown

An academic by training, a writer by day, and a Cheapo by heritage, Hilary Bown's meagre means and insatiable travel appetite have helped her sharpen her "no-budget travel" skills across the European continent over the past decade. At home in Berlin or on an adventure abroad, you'll find her in sandals, riding the bus, reading novels while walking, drinking the local wine, writing out postcards with a felt-tip pen, and browsing the shelves of the supermarket and hardware store. Find her unique blend of travel adventure and tested advice at Less Than a Shoestring.

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3 thoughts on “Berlin’s Turning 775 – and You’re Invited!”

  1. SamTours, I’m not really sure anyone is basing a visit to Berlin around these events — but if you’re going to be in town anyway, it’s nice to have a look at what’s on offer. As a local, I’m excited that the excavations will once again be on display and I plan to have a wander through the city map and visit the fire exhibition, if the weather’s good. Not sure how I’ve been “fooled” by taking advantage of what my taxes are funding (and encouraging others to do so as well)…

    Susanne and Nicky, shall we meet up on the 28th? You can share your Cölln wisdom with me in person ;)

  2. Amazing the way that tourist boards dig up obscure birthdays to pull the unwitting their way. Berlin surely ignored the 700th and 750th birthdays of Cölln (heck, not even Berlin, but a small village over the river). Why not come to Meaux east of Paris next year, we will celebrate our 344th birthday? I can see why tourists get fooled by these things, but writers too? I guess this Berlin bash is a ploy to pull few gullible crowds at a quieter time of year.

  3. .
    Just as Berliners blur the narratives of history, so there is surely a little blurred geography here. Historic Cölln was of course on the opposite bank of the Spree from the Nikolaiviertel (the latter was part of Altberlin). It is interesting that, for the purpose of these celebrations, Cölln has evidently been moved over the river. We hope the real residents of historic Cölln will rise up and reclaim their settlement.

    Susanne and Nicky
    editors of hidden europe magazine (and, respectively, a Berlinerin and a Wahlberlinerin).


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